The controversy over the distribution of permanent voter cards (PVCs) has continued to rage a few days before the general elections, raising concerns of possible disenfranchisement of eligible voters. More stunning, however, is the fact that some officials of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) are sounding discordant on the true position of things, which suggests that the commission may not be telling the whole truth about the entire exercise.
Last week, the commission’s spokesperson, Kayode Idowu, said the INEC headquarters in Abuja had dispatched the last batch of the PVCs to states and that it was the duty of the resident electoral commissioners in various states to ensure proper distribution to potential voters. But an officer of the commission in Lagos said on Monday that they were still compiling the names and wards in the state that had not received their PVCs, insisting that Abuja was yet to release all the cards in their possession.
Furthermore, contrary to insinuations that the commission may be having funding challenges in the printing and distribution of the PVCs, the commission had earlier, through its spokesperson, confirmed to BDSunday that it has actually received all the funds it requested from the Federal Government.
It has, in fact, been established that there are so many cards yet to be collected by their owners. Insinuations are also emerging that there may be an unholy alliance between some staffers of INEC and hoodlums who now smuggle out the PVCs to distribute to the owners in their homes for fees. In some cases, these PVCs are said to be carted away and destroyed for whatever reason, meaning that there are those who will never have access to their cards.
The challenges facing INEC in this circumstance came to the fore recently when some eminent personalities began to call for the postponement of the February election. Sambo Dasuki, national security adviser (NSA), told an audience at Catham House in faraway London not too long ago that millions of Nigeria’s eligible voters were yet to receive their PVCs, insisting that postponement would enable such persons to collect their PVCs that will qualify them to perform their civic responsibility. He also said that even with a postponement, INEC would still be within the constitution that allows a window of about 90 days to hold the elections.
We are pained that a few days to the elections, millions of Nigerians are still struggling to collect their PVCs. In the course of doing so, some are being subjected to all manner of inhuman treatment, including extortion.
We do not wish to buy into the insinuation that there could be more to the PVC issue than meets the eyes. We must, however, state categorically that if the INEC is indeed committed to delivering on this assignment of conducting credible, free and fair elections, it must as a matter of urgency plug all holes that appear to be threatening the process.
It is indeed regrettable that up till now, a good number of states are yet to cross the hurdle of PVC distribution despite the fact that some state governments had at one time or the other declared public holidays to enable indigenes and residents collect their PVCs. Although the commission insists that every one of the eligible 68 million registered voters must have their PVCs to be able to really exercise their franchise, there is nothing to show that millions will not be shut out of the exercise.
We wish to also sound an alarm over the proposed use of card reader, which is meant to ascertain that the holder is indeed the owner of the PVC. Our concern here is that the use of the machines may not be able to check election rigging and will only amount to unnecessary expenditure. The bottlenecks associated with the use of the card reader machines, particularly in terms of power, may throw a spanner in the works of the commission at a time it will be impossible to make amends.
We, therefore, insist that INEC must be very clear about what it intends to achieve, particularly in this all-important exercise, in the interest of our dear fatherland.